Starbucks has become a national treasure at this point. Their coffee shops are almost as ubiquitous as McDonald’s and 7-11. But have you ever wondered what makes their drinks so addicting?

A new study from the group, Action on Sugar, reveals the secret of delicious Starbucks drinks.

Photo courtesy of Action on Sugar

Action on Sugar studied the amount of sugar in hot beverages served by a number of coffee chains in London, one of which was Starbucks. They found that 35% of the drinks surveyed contained as much, or more, sugar than a Coca-Cola. What’s even more troubling is that 98% of these drinks would receive a high warning label. This means that they contain more than 13.5 grams of sugar. That’s about 4 Oreos.

starbucks drink

Photo by Katie Walsh

Starbucks was one of the worst offenders. Their Hot Mulled Fruit (only available in the UK) had 25 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Their White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream had 17 teaspoons, and their hot chocolate weighed in at about 15 teaspoons.

To put it in perspective for you, the recommended daily intake of sugar is about 25 grams, or 6-9 teaspoons.

And if you’re thinking, “Well of course those drinks are bad for you, they’re full of chocolate,” it’s not just the chocolate-y drinks that are sugar bombs. A venti Chai Tea Latte has 13 teaspoons of sugar. That’s one and a half regular sized Snickers bars.

starbucks drink

Photo courtesy of flickr and

Americans are drinking more coffee today than we ever have. Today, 54% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day and we consume about 3 cups a day. On average, the US spends $40 billion a year on coffee. But we don’t drink simple brewed coffee. How many people really drink their coffee black?

Today, Americans are more likely to guzzle down a grande Caramel Macchiato or a Pumpkin Spice latte (both have 8 grams of sugar).

Starbucks’ reaction to the study was this:

“Earlier this year we committed to reduce added sugar in our indulgent drinks by 25% by the end of 2020. We also offer a wide variety of lighter options, sugar-free syrups and sugar-free natural sweetener and we display all nutritional information in-store and online.”

starbucks drink

Photo by Molly Doroba

And while this is good news, it might be a little too late. At the start of the new year, Starbucks made a record $5.4 billion. So, with all of that coffee we’re purchasing, we can guzzle down almost an entire candy bar’s worth of sugar.

Calories and fat are important to keep track of but several studies have found a direct link between sugar consumption and obesity. And Americans today are consuming more sugar than we ever have before. We pump our bodies full of so much sugar that by the end of our lifetime, we could fill an industrial-sized dumpster.

Gif courtesy of

The problem isn’t really us either. Science has proven that sugar can be even more addicting than cocaine. And it’s in everything! If you go to the grocery store today and pick up anything — bread, cereal, tomato sauce — you’ll find at least 3 grams of sugar in all of those items.

Americans are addicted to sugar and we’re not helped by the people making and selling us food. So Starbucks committing to lowering sugar is a great start, but we need more transparency in general. I mean if I’m going to waste my day’s sugar allotment, at least let me eat some cake.